The Makura:  An Original Buckwheat Hull Pillow

If a complete Japanese futon set is your goal, then you’re going to need a pillow (or “makura” as they’re called in Japan). The makura has two distinct features that separate it from Western pillows:  size and composition. These Japanese pillows may appear unusually small when compared to standard U.S. sizes, almost like a travel or decorative / throw pillow. Also, rather than foam, feathers, or synthetic fibers, authentic makuras are filled with buckwheat hulls.

Buckwheat Hull Filling for Japanese Pillows

Large bags of buckwheat hulls. Filling for a makura. Photo credit: Willie Ling (Flickr)

Although modern medicine has only recently caught on to the advantages of buckwheat hull pillows, the Japanese have been enjoying their benefits for centuries. Health care professionals will frequently recommend a makura to help alleviate neck pain and tension headaches. They evenly distribute the weight of your head, allowing the supporting neck muscles to fully relax. Hulls can often be added or removed to suit your preference, leaving the only reasonable gripe that some people find them noisy. Check out the pros and cons to determine whether or not one of these pillows is a good fit for you.

PROS

  • Alleviates neck pain and tension headaches
  • Organic and hypoallergenic
  • Hulls can be added / removed to adjust firmness

CONS

  • Traditionally smaller than standard U.S. pillows
  • Can be “noisier” than foam or down

 

The Best Japanese Buckwheat Hull Pillows

When deciding upon which pillow to buy, you should consider the quality of materials used and only purchase from companies that you trust. Imported buckwheat pillows must meet certain standards due to government regulations. This can include roasting the hulls to eliminate potential contaminants as well as spraying on questionable fire retardant chemicals, ultimately creating a lower quality and less desirable product than one made in your country. Each of the following pillows are:

  1. Filled with 100% organic U.S. grown buckwheat hulls
  2. Handmade in the United States
  3. Guaranteed to be chemical free

 

J-Life’s Soba Gara Makura

Buckwheat Hull Pillow by J-Life

For those who are looking to buy (or already own) a J-Life shikibuton and / or kakebuton, this is probably the best way to go. Guaranteed to match and with over 30 pillow cover designs to choose from, J-Life’s soba gara makura (buckwheat hull pillow) adds the finishing touch to your bedding set. Though the pillow fabric is imported from Japan, all buckwheat hulls are grown and the pillows are assembled in the U.S.

Sizes:
  • 13″ x 18″ rectangular pillow
  • 3.5″ x 14″ neck pillow

Learn More about J-Life’s Buckwheat Hull Pillow from Amazon

 

Beans72’s Organic Buckwheat Pillows

Buckwheat Pillow from Beans72

Beans72 is proof that you shouldn’t judge a business by its name. After her move from Tokyo to the U.S. in 1999, Yumiko Oshima found herself disappointed by the lack of availability when it came to authentic Japanese buckwheat pillows — so she decided to start making her own. Over a decade later she now oversees the process, ensuring Beans72 continues to make what she calls “Rolls Royce” quality pillows.

Most of their products can be found on their Amazon storefront, including additional hulls to replace or add more stuffing to your pillow, so feel free to skip their personal website and head straight there.

Sizes:
  • 11” x 16” travel / child size
  • 14” x 20” Japanese size
  • 20” x 26” twin / standard size
  • 20” x 30” queen size
  • 20” x 36” king size

Learn More about Beans72’s Organic Buckwheat Pillow from Amazon

 

ComfyComfy’s Comfy Sleep Buckwheat Pillow

Comfy Sleep Buckwheat Hull Pillow

And one more time for good measure — comfy. To be fair, that is a good description of ComfyComfy’s pillows. Maggie (the owner) is originally from Brunei and grew up sleeping on buckwheat pillows. After receiving positive feedback from her family and friends she decided to start her own business. Years later the ComfyComfy operation has grown but still maintains a primary focus on quality.

Sizes:
  • 15” x 21” rectangular pillow
  • 15” x 23” rectangular pillow
  • 15” x 26” rectangular pillow
  • 20” x 26” rectangular pillow
  • 14” x 6” travel neck pillow
  • 17” x 6” neck pillow
  • 19” x 7” large neck pillow

Learn More about ComfyComfy’s Buckwheat Pillow from Amazon